Trill Talk with Evidence
I know this is a terrible hook (what up, English Professors), but man, I interviewed Evidence. EVIDENCE! He’s one of my favorite rappers, and I’m sure that it’s evident how excited I was and um…sorry about that pun. Anyhow, I caught up with him last week when he was in Seattle with Atmosphere, Blueprint, DJ Babu, and Prof for the Family Vacation Tour.
The interview was super trill, the trillest of the trill in fact, and you can peep what I wrote about it for the fine folks of Members Only here. Mr. Slow Flow and I talked about a ton of stuff, including but not limited to: Fashawn and their song “Same Folks,” Evidence’s production and graffiti, and how they intertwine; Instagram; his album Cats & Dogs, and cats and dogs; his favorite books; “For Whom The Bell Tolls” (spoiler alert: not related to Hemingway), and how he linked up with Roc Marciano. Slug from Atmosphere makes a cameo in our interview, too!
Plus, Evidence was kind enough to give me some Cats & Dogs posters to give away, so stay tuned! Basically, I just need to get my act together.
Julie: Say what’s up.
J: Hi. Julie.
Both: [shake hands]
E: Hi, Mike.
J: Nice to meet you, Mike. I’m not sure if you remember, but last time you were in town with Fashawn, I met you, and you were rapping to me in the parking lot after the show…
E: [walks away and comes back] It all comes back to me now…
E: Holy shit…I feel stupid…
E: Because I don’t remember. It was like a major event! I should remember.
J: It’s ok!
E: A lot of weed on that tour.
J: Understandable. So I guess that was a good tour for you?
E: It was a great tour for me. I was more excited about it for Fashawn, to be honest. He brought me on a special guest, like I’d done a lot of introducing him to certain people when I could, and when I felt it was right, especially overseas, and for him to say, ‘Hey, this is my tour, come back on mine and I’ll bring you as a special guest,’ was not only like, just a super, it just showed me, like, how, screwed on his head is to his shoulders, and just got a young kid thinking like a man, so, that even further solidified the greatness of Fashawn to me.
J: So your song “Same Folks,” did that come about on tour? Or something afterward?
E: No, we were actually performing that on tour. We world premiered it on that tour. Yeah, that song had been sitting around for a while, and we actually shot the video last summer at Venice Beach. And everyone is just seeing it this summer, but it’s actually a year old. But, goes to show sometimes if you wait for the right time, it can work. We finished it, and we were about to drop it, and it was like September, and it was raining, and I was like, ‘This is not what Venice Beach is like right now. Let’s just hold it til next summer.’ So we did, and it’s been really well received. There’s been almost two hundred thousand views in like three weeks on Youtube, which is really crazy. Yeah.
E: Yeah yeah.
J: So you’re going to be doing the East Coast leg of Rock the Bells?
E: Yeah, I missed the west, because I’m right here, where I want to be.
J: Yeah. So then you’re off to Europe?
E: Actually I’m going to jump on the second leg of this…
E: …end it out through September, and then go on I think the first ever Rhymesayers European tour in November, which I’m going to have a great slot on, and I’m really happy about it because, well, a lot of members of Rhymesayers were rocking Wichita, or fucking, you know, the Dakotas, or shit like that…
E: Rakaa, me, and Babu were in fucking Belgrade, or, Croatia. You know what I’m saying?
E: You gotta go where the people want you, and with Dilated, we were lucky enough to build up a really strong fanbase over the ocean, so I’m looking forward to the Rhymesayers tour in Europe because I feel like I can bring a lot of value to it, with what I’ve built up out there.
E: Yeah yeah yeah.
J: Are you excited?
E: Yeah, I really like it. I’m on my third passport.
E: The world is a big place, and I encourage as many people to travel as much as they can. Travel is living. To travel is to live.
J: Are there any places that you haven’t visited, or want to perform at?
E: You mean on the globe?
E: Well, we just did Brazil for the first time, but I would love to go to Rio when we did Sao Paulo, so I think Rio would be one for me, I really enjoyed that. I think, well, it has to be right, because it’s just not easy, but I think Rakaa, my partner, and Babu are always talking about a Pacific Rim Tour, like doing, start in Hawaii, then go to Japan, and try to do Korea and maybe islands, and certain things that we’ve never got to before. That would be amazing.
J: Oh yeah.
J: Especially right now with the rain…
J: Did you bring this rain?
E: …sorry. I also didn’t bring all of my voice.
J: Aww…it’s ok.
E: It’s kinda sexy.
[I mumble something and am flustered]
J: So will there be a Cats & Dogs tour?
E: Yeah, that’s what we’re talking about right now. I’m doing all this support right now, and opening up. You know I’ve found there are a lot of Atmosphere fans who might know of Dilated Peoples, or Evidence, but they’re not necessarily aware of my everyday occurrences, and to be honest, that’s a beautiful thing. And I thought about it long and hard, and it’s like, the perfect example would be Radiohead or something. A group that I could ask you, ‘Are you a Radiohead fan?’ What would you say?
J: No, but I know of them.
E: Ok, so pretend you were a fan. Say yes.
E: Do you know all the members of Radiohead?
E: You do? [pause] Alright this is going wrong. My point is…let’s try somebody else. Yo Slug. Let’s try this.
E: Ask him.
J: Are you a Radiohead fan?
Slug: I appreciate Radiohead, yes.
E: Next question.
J: Do you know all the members of Radiohead?
S: Thom Yorke and the other guys.
E: My point exactly. Because it’s Dilated Peoples, I can’t expect everyone to know everything about me, you know what I’m saying? It’s my job to get out there and say, ‘Listen, we are a group, but there are individual parts.’ People who focus on it, you’re appreciated, and if you don’t know about it at all, that’s dope, too. It’s just what it is.
J: Sorry I messed that improv up.
E: You got Slug in your interview!
J: Ok. Please don’t judge me…but basically I didn’t know who great you were until I saw you with Fashawn. This leads into my next question, that I read you feel like your songs get better as you do them live. Would you ever consider releasing a live album?
E: Eventually, yes. There’s something about holding a microphone…
E. …Verses the shit just hanging. Sometimes, it’s like, just don’t know what to do with your the fucking hands, you know what I’m saying?
E: It’s just like something about this [starts dancing around like he’s performing] it’s just so much more natural than headphones and just…
J: Standing there?
E: Yeah, and then there’s the people. You know, maybe I looked in your eyes and maybe you smiled, or maybe someone threw their hand up and got me motivated. It’s hard to create that energy in the booth, so I would love to do a live record, and I would hope that the people would receive it and expect some imperfections. But much more…I think the energy would supercede the flaws.
J: Yeah. So you started as an artist with the MSK crew. Are you still–
E: AWR. Which was before it evolved into MSK. Yeah, so it’s like the OG, MSK.
E: No it’s all good.
J: Are you still involved in visual art at all?
E: Yeah, definitely. Getting arrested got a little tired, you know what I’m saying. That got a little played out. I shifted my energy toward music, but I don’t think you can ever hold a creative person down. They’ll always find a way to do something creative, from being on my iPhone and photoshopping all day, or whatever I’m doing, it’s creative and will remain that. I still draw and I still paint, but my energy has been shifted to making beats and making raps.
J: When you were tagging ‘Mr Slow Flow,’ was the Capital Records one like permanent?
E: Naw they erased it soon. When I was tagging that, it’s important for people to know that it was a play on the movie Beat Street, where there was a guy named Spit, you had a guy named Ramo, R-A-M-O, who would go put his beautiful pieces up, and then you come in the morning, and ‘Spit’ would be written all over it in this really ugly cursive writing. So my “Mr Slow Flow” writing is emulating Spit. I’m capable of much more than that.
J: So how do you feel I guess your past graffiti work, and your song writing and beatmaking is intertwined? Since they’re all elements of hiphop.
E: Definitely. How do I think they play together?
E: I mean, just aesthetically, they’re the same. The sketch, an idea, you fill it in with color. Same thing with music, you put an outline on it, could be the rhyme, put some highlights on it, gloss it up, that could be mastering or mixing, and then you present it.
J: So it seems like to me, a lot of people don’t know that you’re an incredible producer. How does your beat making differ from song making?
E: I got into idea of producing from my next door neighbor when I was a kid, QD3, Quincy Jones’ son, and I just moved next to him. My parents got divorced and we couldn’t afford that neighborhood so we moved here, and I ended up living next to this guy. It was like godsend, you know literally, he was producing Ice Cube, Too $hort, and scoring The Fresh Prince of Belair, and Curtis Mayfield, and all these records I was so into. He had dreadlocks, he was a good looking guy, I was always like, ‘Why don’t you rap? You’re the shit!’ You know what I mean?
E: If I looked like you, I would rap! And he was like, ‘I’m a producer. My place is behind the scenes.’ And I couldn’t get my head around that because I was 12 or 13, and I was like, kind of insane, but then I started thinking about my graffiti, and I was like, wait, that’s just like my graffiti, I don’t want to be seen for my graffiti, I want my graffiti to be seen. So I was like, wow, production and graf writers are very similar because their face is not assimilated with their work.
E: It wasn’t until Kanye West that you had these rapper producers coming out, that changed all that shit. For a long time, Marley Marl, Pete Rock, well Pete Rock was in a group, but Marley Marl, Bomb Squad, all these people I looked up to. I didn’t really know too tough what they looked like, it was about the music. So I don’t think, I’m a rapper, I get enough validation from being seen doing that, to where when the beat time comes, I’m more influenced by those guys than I am, and I love Kanye and everybody else, he’s a genius. But I’m just saying, I’m more influenced by the past generation who was more about the work than what they looked like
J: Oh ok, that makes sense. So do artists approach you for beats? Or do you reach out to them?
E: I think that’s why I never really maxed out on production, because I don’t have a manager for my production. I don’t solicit beats to artists. Like I got on Kanye’s album, The College Dropout, like I was the only outside producer on there. The only reason is I was driving around in my car, and I presented him an idea that I was trying to get to Jay-Z, and then he heard it and was like, ‘Why aren’t you giving it to me?’ Because I didn’t realize how big he was going to be at the time, only he did. So then he took it, and he changed the whole shit, took it to a whole fucking other level, that’s why it says co-produced by him, and that’s fine because my sketch to his finished product was literally like graffiti. Like I did the outline, and he filled it in and did everything else, so I couldn’t get that gig ever again, you know what I’m saying, though? Those type of things don’t happen. That was just right place at the right time. I got on Raekwon’s last album, on Shaolin Vs Wu-Tang, because he was at Alchemist’s studio, and Alchemist said, ‘My man’s nice.’ Let me hear, then I pushed play, and he took one. I got on Heltah Skeltah and Sean Price’s new album because I saw in a lobby in Switzerland, and they were like, ‘you got beats on your laptop?’ Yeah and I played them some. You know what I’m saying? …I don’t really know any other way to really get gigs for producing, more than meeting people and being in the right place at the right time.
J: Makes sense.
J: Do you think you’ll do another beat tape?
E: Well, I’ve got four…well I’ve got the yellow tape, red tape, and purple, and I’m about to drop green and clear, so green is coming up soon and I have another one done. My beat tapes are really cool for me because they’re a lot of my B beats, or C beats, that no one ever wanted. So I’m like, ‘Alright, you don’t want that, fuck it, I’ll put it out.’ And I write that, too, these are not my A list tracks. And I find out, sometimes, the ones that I think are the best, are not the ones that are the best, and sometimes the ones that I think are not the best, other people like those more. And as a producer, my only goal, for the production, is to make the rappers sound good. That’s all I care about. I’m not trying to outshine anybody. I just want to make a beat that lets him shine. That’s it, that’s my job as a producer. I’m not in a competition to outrap a rapper with my track.
J: Ok. Do we have a lot of time left? Can I play you something for you?
J: You might recognize it… Actually, I’ll just tell you. It’s two guys from Seattle rapping over one of your beats.
E: Then play it, go.
J: [awkwardly rambling while trying to work iPad] I was like…um I loooove this song. And then I didn’t even know you had did the beat.
E: Oh shit…I’ve never heard it…
[Evidence appears to be enjoying Helluvastate’s take on his “Bubbler” beat]
E: I don’t need to hear any more, that shit is fly as fuck. That sounds like a Neptunes hit, like it could be on the radio or shit.
J: I know, isn’t it great?
E: Great! What are they called?
J: So it’s one guy, Thad who is part of State of the Artist, and the other guy is Tay Sean from Helladope…together they are Helluvastate.
E: That’s dope. That’s what those are for, for people to do just that.
J: I love that song.
E: Sure. Yeah, that beat was sitting forever. Nobody wanted that shit. I showed it to everybody! Nobody took it. It’s funny.
J: They like added a couple seconds to it in the video, which is super filthy, so it’s 2:06.
E: You gotta send me a link. I need it.
J: Ok. So Cats & Dogs, are you more of a cat or dog person?
J: A lot of people don’t say that.
E: Yeah. More like, if you approach too fast I’ll back up…
[Evidence jumps away from me]
J: Oh yeah?
E: And then once I start feeling comfortable, I’ll start like, walking back around a little…
[Evidence is walking around me like a cat...and starts laughing]
E: I’m not, only when it comes to bitches I’m a dog!
J: Oh…like females?
E: No. I’m an animal.
J: Oh, got it.
E: I didn’t sell that very well, did I?
J: Yeah, maybe I just missed that…
E: It was a lot.
J: So also for Cats & Dogs, I was wondering, could you explain the concept behind the cover art?
E: Yeah, it’s basically a cat and a dog looking at all their missing homies, and I’m blurry in the picture. Say it was 9/11, and you had a male and a female looking at everybody, a cat or a dog would literally, not even understanding why, what we’re looking at or whatever, they can’t even comprehend, so I basically reversed it and put myself in their world and I’m just walking by. I can’t even register it. That was kind of the concept for the cover. I’m such a weather-driven person that everyone was expecting like little cats and dogs falling out of the sky and me with an umbrella. We tried some stuff like that, but I thought, enough with the umbrella. The only way would have been would to have put me in like water up to my face, or something like that. And I actually did some photos–I’ll show you–we took like black paint and sprayed it from a fire hose at my face. It hurt really bad in the middle of the night when it was freezing, and I’m just like screaming in the most like pain I’ve ever been in, and cpatured all that and filmed it.
E: We’ll probably put that on the net in a little bit. It’s not very glamorous and it doesn’t make me look fresh, but I think of it as an art piece, and I’m proud of it. I’ll show you a picture.
[Evidence is looking through his phone and I’m awkwardly rambling]
J: I can show you a picture of my cat hiding in garbage can…
E: Alright. Are you on Instagram?
J: No! But I really wanna be!
E: Could be on there.
[He points to my iPad]
E: Yeah, just download Instagram on there.
J: Ok, I’ll do it.
E: You really should.
J: I know. That’s the whole reason I want an iPhone.
E: Yeah, literally, people are dropping out of Blackberry just to get on Instagram.
J: I know.
E: So here’s my pic.
[Shows me some pictures]
E: I’m really proud of the photos I’ve been doing.
[Shows me some other pictures]
J: Yeah, they look good! I follow you on Twitter and I see them.
E: You see some of them? I don’t post all of them on Twitter. That one I really like.
[Shows me a beautiful landscape picture]
J: Wow, that’s really pretty.
E: Here’s the one…wow really? I’m already on my second page, oh shit. I have a little more.
J: Here’s my cat…hiding in a garbage can…
[I show him Dante in a garbage can]
E: Fucking beautiful.
[The picture is exactly as Evidence described: him, grimacing, with his eyes shut in the black of night, with black ink all over his face. Looks painful, also as he described]
J: Wow. That’s intense.
J: Ok…have you and the Alchemist been working on Stepbrothers much?
E: Yeah, well a little bit. That’s like my friend and we just hook up everyday to make music on some ditch school shit, still. You know what I’m saying? So when we have enough of them, we’ll put it out. We have a lot songs, just, he’s DJing for Eminem, he’s DJing for Mobb Deep, he’s in Gangrene, he’s on top of that one of the best producers out, and will continue to be, so when, I think Dilated Peoples is next after Cats & Dogs, and then Stepbrothers.
J: Has Dilated Peoples been back in the lab working?
E: Yeah. Two songs that we did recently really gave me a lot of hope.
J: Good to hear.
E: The album is called Directors of Photography, which is dope. ‘DP’ is the ‘Director of Photography.’ Dilated Peoples, always been about the eye, all these photo apps and all this photography, really, like a super concept. I’m looking for a major Instagram sponsor.
J: That would be awesome, I think you should pursue that. So for the song, “For Whom The Bell Tolls”…
J: Does it relate to Hemingway’s novel?
E: You know, it doesn’t relate to that, it doesn’t relate to the Metallica song, just, came across the concept, came across the words. I knew it was Hemingway, I didn’t know Metallica had done it.
[Holds hands up in surrender]
E: Shoot me! Fucking I’m sorry to the world.
J: I didn’t know…
E: Alright, like on Youtube, that’s like the biggest, how could they call it a Metallica song, basically, but it was something my manager said at the time, Brock, just said. There was a bell in the song, he said ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls,’ and a rap was written, and that was that. It wasn’t very hard, it didn’t take much premeditation. But I really love that song.
E: Yeah yeah yeah, it turned out really good.
J: So what’s your favorite book? I studied English Lit so I always ask.
E: I’ve been reading every book by Michael Connelly, I don’t know if you know who that is. He basically, my favorite book by him is Echo Park, so I’d say you should read that.
E: He was a detective…or a cop for a lot of years, and a lot of information that went into his brain, and now he writes fiction…but is it? So, you know, every book takes place in Los Angeles where I’m from, and he uses real streets, real buildings, real situations, so literally, I can feel myself in his books and I’m immersed in that world which is crazy. And he’s really consistent! I think I’ve read eleven or twelve Michael Connelly’s now. They’re really bad ass. Yeah, so, that’s been the latest. I just read the Scar Tissue Anthony Kiedis Autobiography, which is…
[Ev is speechless]
J: I should read that?
E: …is…yeah! My respect for him is, was through the roof and it goes even higher now. I think he’s one of the dopest musician/entertainers of our generation, period, that dude is. And the band as well, the members came and went, as well, but when I think about it, he’s really one of the first white rappers.
J: Oh that’s my iPad, alerting me that it’s the Evidence and Atmosphere concert tonight.
J: Ok one last question…how did you link up with Roc Marciano for “Fame?”
E: Roc Marci has been a name that’s been floating in our circle for a long time, primarily through Planet Asia. Babu worked with Roc Marci and Planet Asia on Duck Season 3, his last producer mixtape he put out. He was from a group called the UN, still is, and there was a Pete Rock produced joint that he had back in the day, which was my favorite, and I’ve always been a fan. And then lately he started coming around Alchemist, so Alchemist found him, and I swear, Alchemist has fucking pom poms out, rocking to Marci, and everywhere he goes, it’s like this…
[I’m laughing as Evidence pretends to cheer with pom poms]
E: He’s [Alchemist’s] such a fan it’s retarded, so, I go over there every day, and we have to like play six Roc Marci joints before we can work on shit, you know what I’m saying? It’s like, one day I just called him, off Twitter. I didn’t even tell Alchemist. I was like, I’m bypassing the man.
E: He was a fan already. We hung out, he came out to LA to work, Al was working on his new album. Just a good dude. Man, it’s like, nothing like liking somebody, meeting them, and they’re fucking cool. It changes everything. When I was young, I hated Kris Kross. I fucking hated him! Everything about it, couldn’t stand it. I went to a party one time with my big brother Bloc, he took me to this So So Def party, and Jermaine Dupri and one of the dudes from Kris Kross was at the door, greeting everybody who walked in, and one of the dudes was like, he was like, ‘This is my man from Dilated Peoples!’ And the dude from Kris Kross was like, ‘Oh respect! I like your shit!’ And I felt like the biggest dick, ever! And I was like, yo, because I thought if I didn’t like you, that meant you didn’t like me. You know what I’m saying? I didn’t understand that I was such an immature kid, and it just taught me a lot, to respect everyone’s art. If I don’t fuck with it, keep it to myself, you never know. You might go on tour with them, and see fucking how they rock shit, you might turn into it. Roc Marci was just one of those dudes, who I met, he was super nice, and super cool on top of that. Put him on “Fame,” killed it, we later got Prodigy with Alchemist. I got Roc Marci and Prodigy. It’s definitely an Alchemist favorite song.
E: That’s the one he wants to play over and over. That’s cool.
J: Well, thank you! I really appreciate it!
E: Thank you! That was dope, thank you for the good questions.
J: Aww thank you!
E: Fresh. Are you taken care of to go in? Do you have a ticket?
J: Yeah I’m good.
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